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By Zack Haddad | January 25, 2007

2007 SUNDANCE WORLD DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION FEATURE! To be in a strange land with no money or family can be one of the most awkward and confusing things anyone faces. This is the basic “premise” for “Welcome Europa” and like being confused and feeling awkward in a strange land, the same can be said about viewing this film. I feel like a broken record, how many times do I have to say that a documentary with no true narrative and no connection to the people being documented is considered, by me at least, a terrible film.

The film follows a handful of Moroccan, Romanian, and Kurdish males who travel to different European countries thinking they can better themselves, “grass is greener” style. Instead, these men end up living on the street and sleeping with homosexuals for cash in order to go to another country (thinking, again, that the next country will be better). This could be interesting if the film wasn’t plagued with pretentious filmmaking, bordering on the painfully self-important, that was way too overwhelming. For example, to set the tone, the film opens with one of these men slashing his wrists in a bathroom. Now this isn’t problematic in itself, but it has to do with trying to setup a fiction narrative that fails due to its foundation in reality, showcasing a feeling of staged “reality” and forced emotions and opposed to a natural human reaction.

Director Bruno Ulmer seemingly set out with good intentions when filming these tragic souls but it seems he got lost in the course of it all. Not a single one of these men was identifiable with something as simple as a name and very quickly everyone seemed the same since they were all undergoing the same type of situation.

I really had a difficult time sitting through this film. Not because of the people in it trading sex for money or the opening violence, but because the film was extremely pretentious and false-feeling right out the gate, making the entire experience uncomfortable.

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